There’s a second kind of “climate change” happening in our world today — this one in our culture. It generates heat without light through conflict in civil society. It also causes personal pain through the abrasive erosion of the proverbial topsoil that otherwise allows dignity and hope to grow and thrive in a well ordered society.
Like the weather, we gripe about it, but we don’t know how to control it. We can’t agree on solutions to pursue together or even reach clarity on what problems are ripe for real discussion. You might say the mix of challenges constitutes a “perfect storm” summoning us to the need to reconstruct our societal modes of communication after this primal storm has damaged them in ways we could not foresee or prevent.
This multi-dimensional problem, which creates major hurdles against achieving goals of secular solidarity and missionary discipleship, has as its source a combination of social polarization and devolving conversation. It is building momentum these days, at the intersection where journalism and our changing news environment meet politics and our changing technological environment. It’s arising amid confusion and disagreement about values, approaches and purpose, fed by disenchantment with traditional ideas plus attempts to confront new, complex issues in the modern style of self-centered moralism and relativism.
We need to get back to basics about such values as the common good, the pursuit of peace and other “rules of engagement” among people—reviving ideas such as mercy, justice, patient accompaniment and personal accountability in the process—about which the Catholic Church provides time-tested insights. Pope Francis is one of the few world leaders and opinion-shapers who is seeking to spotlight these resources as relevant, connection-making remedies, not outmoded attacks on personal freedom. He talks about them, in compelling ways, through his messages for World Communications Day. He also addresses the dangers our “digitized” culture poses, especially toward young people and the future of communities, local and global.
My book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer? (available at Amazon), published in 2018, seeks to lay a groundwork for an effort to help all people of good will address this problem, tapping into Church wisdom and the unifying spirit of St. Francis of Assisi while remaining inclusive and attuned to today’s perspectives. This book, if combined with the transformative assistance of faith; public speaking; creative endeavors like blogs and podcasts; and ecumenical, non-partisan awareness-building, has the potential to establish and promote practical goals for peaceful and constructive modes of conversation in today’s society.
I would like to explain more about the prospects for renewal I see in communication and information. I’d like to start a storm surge of discussion—first at the grass-roots level, among people like you. Parishes and church groups will enjoy rediscovering the creative light of faith and reason, truth and love, not only to evangelize, but to cooperate with the secular world in preserving rights and responsibilities, debate and problem-solving.
That’s the essence of the “#When Headlines Hurt” project.
Invite me to bring my reflections and research, based in the messages of Pope Francis and Saint Francis among others, to your group today. I promise a sunny discussion as contemporary as today’s headlines and newsfeeds, but also a luminous dialogue much more inspiring then anything you might find on a typical mass media outlet in these blustery times.
This post was adapted from a post on my blog, OnWord.net.